Snowboarder search resumes after heavy Colo. snow
Vail, CO Colroado
DENVER ” Searchers on skis and in helicopters hunted for two snowboarders missing in southwestern Colorado on Tuesday after a weekend storm dumped more than 4 feet of snow and left about 10,000 customers without electricity.
Michael George and Kyle Kerschen, both 27 and both from Albuquerque, N.M., were last seen on Saturday near the Wolf Creek ski resort about 170 miles southwest of Denver.
Heavy snowfall and the threat of avalanches hampered the search previously, but with good weather on Tuesday, two helicopters and 40 to 50 searchers on skis and snowmobiles renewed the hunt.
“It’s a full search today,” said Sandy Kroll, a spokeswoman for the Mineral County Sheriff’s Department. “The sky is blue and the sun is out.”
George’s mother, Laura George, said the men were unprepared for cold nights in the open, and that they probably didn’t have much food or water.
“My son has been hiking and fishing, but he’s never been tested like this,” she said.
The search area has received more than 4 feet of snow in the past three days, Mineral County Sheriff Fred Hosselkus said.
The National Weather Service said as much as 50 inches fell at the Silverton Mountain ski resort in San Juan County, about 200 miles southwest of Denver. More than 2 1/2 feet fell in neighboring La Plata County, where trees fell onto power lines and left thousands without electricity.
“It looks like a war zone” around the town of Vallecito Lake, said Indiana Reed, a spokeswoman for La Plata Electric Association.
She said up to 2,000 customers were still without electricity Tuesday, but they were expected to be back on line by midnight, Reed said.
Reed said 80 people, including some from Cortez and Grand Junction, were working to restore power.
State Climatologist Nolan Doeskin said heavy snows dating back to December have saved the state from dangerously dry conditions.
Snowpack levels are near average in the northern Colorado mountains and more than 140 percent of average in the southern mountains.
Weather researchers were worried about a worsening drought because snowfall was below average at the beginning of the season.
“Going into the end of November, it was very touch and go ” drought conditions were redeveloping over the eastern plains, and snowfall in the mountains was much less than average,” Doesken said.
But weather patterns changed abruptly in December.
“Lo and behold, now we find that the high country for much of Colorado is above average for this time of the year,” Doesken said. “It’s quite a remarkable good recovery.”